By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
ABUJA—Nearly five years after the allegation by then governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN,, now Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi, that Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, failed to remit about $49.8 billion into the Federation Account, Senator Ahmed Makarfi has given insight into why former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke, was not indicted by his Senate Committee that investigated the matter.
Makarfi, who was governor of Kaduna State and former Interim Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, told journalists in Abuja, yesterday, that there was no evidence linking the former minister to the allegation and that indicting her would have been most unfair.
He spoke on the heels of insinuations that the Senate Committee, which he chaired, should have indicted the former minister, considering allegations of corruption over which she is now facing trial in the United Kingdom and other revelations by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
According to Makarfi, the Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriations was given a mandate of investigating falling revenues and the level of implementation of the 2013 budget.
He said the report of his committee, which was submitted in May 2014, covered the alleged unremitted $49.8 billion, representing 76 per cent of the value of crude oil lifting from January 2012 to July, 2013.
He said at some point, Sanusi himself reduced the figure to $20 billion and later $10 billion.
Makarfi said: “We didn’t indict the Minister of Petroleum; we didn’t indict anyone other than the institution of the NNPC but then we said subject to the receipt of the forensic audit report.
“Now, some people expected us to have indicted Deziani on the allegation. She might have committed some other offences, I am not talking about that. But when you are looking at the revenue for the period we were asked to look into, the NNPC never presented any memo where she tampered with it or approved anything that had to do with it.
“Everything NNPC presented to us showed that they were the ones responsible for it. If the institution of the NNPC said that they are the one responsible for it and the ones to be held accountable for it, on what basis would you go to another individual and say no you are the one responsible for it.
“Nobody presented any memo, internal or otherwise, to show that for the period that we covered, she passed any instructions or memo on the revenue.”
On kerosene subsidy
“On the payment of subsidy on kerosene, look, because of the sensitivity of this matter, I sought the permission of the Senate President that I wanted to question and find out the truth, even from the then President on the matter that had to do with kerosene subsidy.
“He approved it. He arranged it and I asked specific questions on whether he was aware that subsidy on kerosene was being paid, and he answered in the affirmative.
“Look at the level we went, that the President made himself available to the chairman of a committee of the senate to clarify matter. Is it happening now?
“There was complete openness. Besides that, the President himself was on the NTA defending why he had to reverse the decision of (late) President Yar’Ardua, for them to continue paying kerosene subsidy . The President himself confirmed that he was aware that subsidy on kerosene was being paid and going on air to defend it.
“How do you want me to go and say that the minister unilaterally, did it. How? That would have been very unfair to the minister.
“But we said it was unconstitutional because it was not appropriated and it is there in the report and the National Assembly could take any decision on that unconstitutional expenditure.
“Why didn’t any other senator say, let us do ABCD. We recommended that since there was an on-going expenditure, a request for the expenditure should be made to the National Assembly, which is a procedure of normalizing such expenditures. But of course until we left, no such request came.”
What should be done to NNPC
On how to make NNPC effective, Makarfi said: “Our recommendations are there in the report. We recommended a speedy passage of the PIB. Any piece of legislation. If the executive if serious about, is it not lobbying, the executive and the legislature can sit down ion it and you would see how fast things would go”.
Asked if the forensic audit report was eventually submitted to the committee, he said, “In Nigeria, when people know you are leaving government, they ignore you. We suffered that. We wrote to the auditors, they did not respond because they knew we were leaving government.
On corruption, he said that the current government should not play politics with the fight against corruption.
His words, “If I were in a position to advice, I would tell President Buhari not to play politics with three things: security, the economy and the fight against corruption.
“On corruption, the government, the private sector, the media , the clergy, all Nigerians must say, ‘enough is enough.
“It is not only the public sector, there is a lot of corruption in the private sector and even in the religious circles. It is not just in one area and say if you touch corruption then the country will be better, no. it has to be all-embracing. You can’t say if you touch corruption in that other area, then something will happen, no.
“It should not be an agenda against PDP that lost election. No that is wrong. You will make noise and headlines but nothing will happen. People will find reasons to come and say,’ let us go and take cover under the ruling party’- just as it is happening now. No that is wrong.
“The issue of insecurity, why would anybody politicize it. When danger comes, does it differentiate between which party one belongs? No.
“On the economy, it is a place where we can find a common ground for the good of all of us. It doesn’t mean we will not have our areas of differences. But we must explore as much areas as we can find common ground so that we can work together “